Mini Gautam on mentoring in India
Mini is Founder and Managing Partner at Arthavat Law and was named one of India’s top 40 lawyers under 40 by Business World. She’s a self-confessed raging optimist especially about the power and future of the startup community.
Mini has led mentoring sessions with Rise Mumbai.
My adventures in mentoring startups and small businesses began after several years as a consultant in various legal practices when I decided to set up Arthavat Law. We advise companies on regulatory, statutory and compliance issues.
A lot of startups were coming to me with questions in these areas and other legal subjects – the legal side is complex for small business. Most people are baffled to learn that there are so many laws they need to comply with. But they were also seeking advice on the business basics, for example, how to pitch to investors. This was particularly true for younger startup owners, who were in some cases, fresh out of grad school. I found myself helping with these and other non-legal questions such as how to ideate and strategise. FinTech is a key sector for India and the questions on how to navigate the regulatory space were endless. So many startups were seeking this type of advice, I knew I could help and decided to build out a specialised startup practice within Arthavat Law. There is a great varierty of work, and that is what makes each day exciting and rewarding.
Mentoring is something I really enjoy and, as I say, there are still many young startups that need support. I see it as a two-way relationship. I get to give back, and every day I see the startup world with a fresh perspective. I learn a lot too about the amazing solutions startups are creating. There is so much energy and enthusiasm, that you can actually feel the thrill and aspirations. It’s actually a great honour to provide advice to the people who are creating the future of technology and contributing so much to the economy.
Female founders in India
I enjoy promoting the accomplishments of female colleagues and the women in the startup world in the country. But there are few of them, so there is still much to do to further the careers of female founders in India. It’s a cultural issue that is changing, but slowly. Only 15-20% of managers in Indian companies are women, and although policies are in place preventing sexual harassment, there is still a lot of bias and stereotyping around women’s capabilities in the world of work. This is something that women in power and their male allies need to be conscious of. Sexual harassment is just one of the areas where work is required for the protection of women. There are many other instances of hidden and unconscious bias, which is sometimes difficult to prove but is at the root of why most women think twice before speaking up in the workplace or making themselves truly visible. Women constitute have the population, yet they are such a small part of the workforce in India. Flexible working will go a long way in giving women the opportunity to balance their multiple commitments. There is a lot to challenge, and we all need to push for faster change.
Change is possible. In the same way that large organisations look to smaller ones as drivers of technology innovation and innovation mindset, they can do the same with equality. For example, take Zomato, the global restaurant aggregator that became a unicorn in 2018. This relatively small company has adopted an enlightened attitude to several areas, and is one of the leaders in gender diversity.
- Hold companies to account. They need to give women better opportunities and equality in pay, promotion, exposure and respect. Of course women have a lot to bring to the table and are in no way less equipped to deliver results than men. Their talent and acumen should be utilised well, by givign them proper incentives, and atleast equal pay. It's unfortunate that even in the year 2021, we have to talk about equal pay
- Show what can be done. Larger Indian companies can learn a lot from smaller, more progressive ones. A small shift in policy may work huge wonders. Listening to the women in your organisation is the most important way to resolve their issues
- Collaborate with male allies. Change will not happen without support from men who are sensitive to the issues. In reality, men will be the main force giving effect to change but they will also benefit equally when women realise their full potential
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